I was recently helping one of our Efficio customers who was having difficulty with her pending report. I could see the problem, but couldn’t reproduce it with the same results. Scratching my head, I asked our technical team to get involved. These are the guys who write code and understand why my computer sometimes gets mad at me. I am the person who can talk about media sales and software to make more money. Them = data. Me = problem solving. Them = Spock. Me = Captain Kirk.
Our technical guys looked at the data from the software and determined the customer was in Efficio at this time and spent five seconds here and five seconds there. In my conversations with the media seller, she wasn’t. She says this, the technical team says that. I get more frustrated because she does; the technical guys say the data does not support what she is saying.
Back and forth with each of us set in our positions, until finally a minor glitch was uncovered. Biting my tongue to hold back my triumphant “I TOLD YOU SO!!”, I watched the technical team resolve the problem.
I remember many times during my media sales career when I just needed that invoice number, just wanted the remote equipment fixed, just wanted those spots to run as promised. I quickly learned that I had internal customers as well as those who buy advertising. And I realized that if I treated my internal customers with the same care as my external customers, just like I got more money from my clients, I would get more help from others in the building.
Here are a few tips to making your internal customers key accounts for you:
- Build a relationship. It is a natural thing to help friends. Know what is important to them – their kids, pets, hobbies. Be a good listener. You may feel the time you invest in listening to a co-worker is money out the window, but I contend that it will save time, as you won’t have to “sell” your position and you will more quickly get what you need. One caveat: you really do have to care. They will know if you are insincere and will see your relationship-building as selfish on your part.
- Help them. It is that Golden Rule thing. If they are stressed or having a bad time, ask why. Don’t say, “Is there anything I can do to help?” because nearly everyone will answer with a “thank you” and an “I’m ok.” Instead, offer a solution. If your sales assistant is stressed because the GM wants a ton of reports pulled by COB, you might offer her use of your office so she can focus and get them done, or allow your request for her help with your one-sheet to wait until tomorrow. Just like a pair of tickets goes a long way with a buyer, a surprise afternoon ice cream will resonate with your office team. Take care of those who are taking care of you.
- Be prepared. Give the short version of the background story (they are busy too and just need the highlights), and what you need (“My key client is having a huge one-time-only sale this weekend to move product, but our inventory is very tight.” If it is a problem, have some solutions ready (“To get these spots on the log, we can move some of my other, more flexible, customers; we can ask programming to make an exception and put spots in promo slots”, etc.)
- Talk. Face-to-face is best, but if you are away from the office, at least pick up the phone. IMing, texting, and emails don’t convey tone well and don’t allow for easy give-and-take and discussion.
- Don’t expect positivity in return. Talents are different than media salespeople. Salespeople are different than those in the business department. The engineering staff is like no other! You may get your computer or the remote equipment fixed with rolled eyes. The invoice you requested may be handed over with a sigh. The talent my not speak to you before or after the meeting with the client to discuss copy, which you requested they attend during their off time. In my case, I never got an “I’m sorry, this was a problem. You were right.” But you did get your computer fixed, the invoice you requested, and the talent at your meeting, just as I got a resolution to my client’s problem. And really, isn’t that what needed to happen anyway?
Treat your internal clients in the same ways you would treat an external client. You will save time and have fewer in-office problems. And, working with your friends is a lot more fun than engaging in war in an office battleground.
By Kitty Malone, Efficio Solutions Manager of Client Services